The Starboard Sea is a heartbreaking, beautifully written coming of age story set in 1980’s New England. The story focuses on Jason Prosper, an overly self-aware, spoiled rich kid dealing with the trappings of circumstance, social class, and the decade. Jason exiles himself to the third tier school of Bellingham Academy after his best friend and sailing partner, Cal, commits suicide. There he meets the mysterious Aidan, a deeply troubled girl with her own secrets to hide. Together they begin to build a life at their boarding school and come to terms with who and what they are, and what they have done. Just as he begins to forgive himself, he is faced with another tragedy that leaves him questioning everything he knows.
The Starboard Sea is an excellent debut novel by Amber Dermont. The prose is lyrical and haunting. Dermont’s passages about the ocean and sailing are so lovely that one assumes the author has a deep rooted love of the sea and if the reader happens to share that love – so much the better. Dermont delves into the world of 1980’s New England prep schools with apparent ease and finesse, creating both a coming of age story and a murder mystery. This novel is not for those looking for a light read, the book deals heavily with love, loss, suicide, bullying, and sexuality. That being said, if you can handle a bit of fictional heartbreak, this book is well worth a read (and will stay with you long after you’re done). Bottom line, I’d rate this novel 5/5 and would recommend it for those who love beautiful prose.